Living for the past five years in countries in which English is not the native language has left me feeling that my use of my native tongue has somewhat diminished in daily speech. When I talk to my family back home, for example, I feel myself speaking rather slowly, using simple words, stumbling over word choice, and making simple grammar mistakes.

Have any studies been done on language loss?

3 Answers 3


Let me play the devil's advocate a bit. Sorry if it looks too informal.

You have not lost your English. Instead, you have acquired a new language (well, a dialect).
And its name is Simple English.

Living in your home country, you naturally communicate using your local dialect. Be it American English, British English, etc. Note that another, non-local dialect still may cause a bit of problem, e.g. for different idiomatic constructs.

Living in a foreign country, you are surrounded with people who use Simple English, obviously because English is L2 for them. This makes you to change your habits of using your own language, otherwise they would misunderstand you too often. Ability of «speaking rather slowly, using simple words» is essentially what is meant here.

So, you have really acquired another language.
And you have not lost your L1. Simple proof is that you still comprehend it when listening or reading.

The real challenge is obtaining an ability to quickly switch between the languages (dialects), and this is where you should probably point your efforts to.

  • 1
    Are you sure that the OP is using English as his daily language in the country he's living in now? I can nevertheless echo what the OP is saying. I lived for six years in a country where I had little opportunity to speak my native language, and it definitely suffered as a result.
    – Sverre
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 15:26
  • Thanks for the answer. Makes sense to me, and yeah, @Sverre, I am communicating for the most part in English (currently with my wife, colleagues at work, etc. who are all Czech native speakers). I still can't shake the feeling though that there is "loss" present, but maybe it's just an observational bias.
    – user10982
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 15:32
  • 1
    @Sverre it looks like that. The OP's profile says they live in Czech Republic working in an I.T. company. I'm also an I.T. guy, Ukrainian national (Ukrainian and Czech both belong to Slavic language family), so I think I deeply understand what OP wants to say just by looking at my English-speaking colleagues. Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 15:32

The phenomenon you are talking about is studied under the label language attrition. Searching for this term with your favourite search engine will bring up a good wealth of references.


Joseph Conrad is said to have complained about losing facility in his native language, Polish, after speaking and writing in English for many years. He, of course, had become a great master of English prose (though he always spoke English with a Polish accent).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.